Once again, as always, I was wrong about Trump. Apparently, the offer to debate Sanders came originally from someone else, perhaps even Sanders. And Trump has turned it down!
I can see only one possible reason why; only one possible downside to debating, from Trump's perspective. Trump must be afraid that Sanders might actually win the Democratic nomination, and that this would help him do it. And, if he is the candidate, unnecessarily boost his credibility in advance of the formal campaign.
I can understand Trump wanting to run against Clinton, not Sanders. Conventional wisdom holds that Sanders would be a weaker candidate, but I think that is wrong. To begin with, the polls do not show it. They show Sanders doing better than Clinton against Trump, or anyone else. In the end, people do not vote on policy or ideology. They vote for the guy they feel good about. Sanders is lots more likeable than Clinton.
And, quite likely, more likeable than Trump.
Against Sanders, too, Trump would lose his trump card, so to speak—voting for him being a thumb in the eye for the establishment. Hard to paint Sanders as an establishment candidate; next to him, Trump himself might look like the establishment. But dead easy to so portray Clinton.
Conventional wisdom also believes Sanders has a snowball's chance in a Bermuda summer of overtaking Clinton at this point. But Trump and his advisers may know or notice something we don't. The Clinton email scandal may be about to re-erupt. A damning report has just come down. The best result for Trump might well be a Clinton nomination immediately followed by criminal indictment, or at least some terrible press. Why help the Democrarts pull out of a nose dive?
While I'm here, let me also express my hope that Trump chooses Newt Gingrich as his vice-presidential candidate. Gingrich has what Trump needs to balance the ticket: most importantly, legislative experience; Southern exposure; conservative credibility. Gingrich is first-class with the media, and, like Trump, never intimidated by the press. And Gingrich is always fun to listen to.